Look at this man. Look at him. This is the face of greatness.
Okay, so you have never heard of the guy—but that’s your fault. Why is Phil “The Power” Taylor the greatest sportsman currently plying his trade in the wide world of professional gamesmanship?
Because Phil “The Power” Taylor is legend.
Because Phil “The Power” Taylor has won 15 world championships in his last 20 seasons in a fast-growing and increasingly competitive sport. Fifteen!
Because Phil “The Power” Taylor, who boasts the transformative power of Tiger Woods but remains blissfully free of anything like the “recent unpleasantness” surrounding the golf supremo, redefines his calling for the modern era.
Because Phil “The Power” Taylor has a tattoo on his arm that says THE POWER and when he comes into the arena the loudspeakers play “I’VE GOT THE POWER” and the man’s nickname is “THE POWER”. That’s why! And because a dude whose body resembles a delicately balanced stack of pears that have all been subjected to some kind of super-secret bleaching process has, even so, established himself as a near-unbeatable one-man dynasty.
So, yes, I have a little bit of a Phil “The Power” Taylor problem, which is odd, because Phil “The Power” Taylor plays a sport that I basically can’t watch except on YouTube. (Fortunately, Phil “The Power” Taylor is huge on YouTube. As he should be.)
Phil “The Power” Taylor, you see, plays darts.
Darts? Yes, darts. I first developed my Phil Taylor problem about a year and a half ago, when I—with the gracious indulgence of my editor—included several pages of over-the-top Phil Taylor praise in my forthcoming book. (This volume, handily titled The Renegade Sportsman, makes its debut this June at fine bookstores and, I suppose, overpriced mobile gadgets near you. Mark your calendars!) And in stumbling upon Phil Taylor—a man who trained to work in a factory that made ceramic toilet-paper handles but who, thanks to the vagaries of the ceramic toilet-paper handle market, developed into a world-class darts player—I also stumbled upon the world of professional darts. And darts, if you’ll pardon le francais, are fucking awesome.
We Americans know darts as a barroom diversion. In England and Europe, the same holds true—except this humble pub game is also regarded as an excellent spectator sport. Major tournaments attract hundreds of fans, who appear to spend all day in darkened rooms engaged in dedicated drinking and chanting the names of their tungsten-twirling titans. The game has evolved into a series of lucrative, high-pressure tournaments dominated by beefy gentlemen who, to generalize, look like they know the barman at their local pub quite well. Like all competitive athletes, pro darts players live demanding lives; Phil “The Power” supposedly practices five hours a day and recently decided to adjust his throwing style by one-eighth of an inch. (One eighth.) Unlike most practitioners of other sports, darts players look like they’re actually having fun.
Darts players all have sweet/stupid nicknames (such as “Bronzed Adonis” and “The Crafty Cockney”) and seem to be required to end each match, no matter the outcome, with a big affectionate man-hug with their opposition. I understand that professionals used to smoke and drink during competition until the game’s governing bodies decided these practices did not reflect a suitable image. Now, players must confine their lubrication to their warm-ups. When an arrowman hits the triple treble-twenty, thus earning the maximum score for one trip to the oche (darts terminology: also awesome), a whiskey-throated announcer bellows ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY! into the microphone and the television announcers burst their spleens.
All in all, this is an amazing sport (okay, game) that deserves a wide American audience. Can someone please figure out some way to “pull a Pele” with Phil “The Power”? As you’ll see from this video evidence, this is the sportsman—and a sport—we need in these dark times.